As the dusk sets in, families in Arnia town on the India-Pakistan border sit huddled as they hear the rattle of gun-fire and exploding mortars, night after night. In the past four days, albeit nights, two persons, including a BSF jawan have died, a dozen injured and several animals including cattle were killed in the indiscriminate firing by Pakistan forces towards the residential areas in this town and its adjoining hamlets.
Each night is an “encounter with death and devastation”, say the local residents. A temple was among the several buildings damaged while three BSF jawans were among those injured in firing by Pakistan troops along the international border and LoC in Jammu and Poonch districts during past four days. According to officials, two Pakistani soldiers were killed in retaliatory action by the BSF. “Since the past two to three days, we have been facing the worst type of shelling by Pakistan troops. Mortar bombs rain here. Every night is an encounter with death for us and every morning a new life”, Arnia resident Yashpaul told PTI.
Since the shelling began on Friday midnight, we have been moving to the store in our house and stay huddled every night due to fear, he said. Like Yashpaul, Sia resident Hari Singh said that nobody sleeps in the border hamlets now.
“The fear is driving out the sleep. We face heavy shelling from 11 pm till the morning,” Singh, a former sarpanch, said. Dead cattle in pools of bloods, torn off roof-tops and windows punctured by bullets and splinters of mortar bombs are a testimony to the intensity of the shelling in this area where smell of cordite and gunpowder lingers in the air.
An overnight attack by Pakistani forces left one woman dead and five persons injured triggering panic. “Windows rattle from the blasts of mortar bombs and rockets aimed at terrorising the population along IB to bring pressure on India and its security forces. The night long attack on Saturday triggered panic among the villagers,” a police officer said. But the villagers are steadfast in their support to the security forces, who they say should give a befitting response to Pakistan. “We are with our forces. They are giving them befitting reply. We demand the BSF should destroy their bunkers and posts which target us. We want that they should never dare to fire again,” said Prem Chand of Arnia.
The border dwellers want that government should speed up the setting up of “individual bunkers” for their homes.
“We urge the state and central government to speed up the plan of construction of individual bunkers. We donot need many community bunkers. The difficulty with community bunkers is how to reach them when the shelling and firing starts,” Singh said. The process of the constructions of bunkers started two years ago and just 60 bunkers as per government figures have been constructed in only few areas, the locals complain. “The Congress government made promises and now this government is in power for three years, but the plan has remained almost on papers.
The government needs to do more”, Surinder Choudhary said. Over a dozen houses and structures, including a temple were damaged, seven cattle died and over a dozen have been injured in Pakistan shelling during past four days. Such was the intensity of the firing and shelling that 82 mm mortar shells landed in Mahasha Kote and Arnia town, which is around 5 kms away from the International Border in Jammu district. Carcasses of animals killed due to splinter injuries are seen strewn in Jora farm and other areas.
Residents say that Arnia town, which was considered a safe place, has also been hit by scores of mortar bombs that killed one person, Ratno Devi, and injured five. Houses in Arnia as well as Sia, Nikowal, Budhwar, Buley Chak, S H Way, Treva Mahasha Kote, Pindi and Pawal villages were hit by the bullets and splinters of mortar shells, which tore roof tops and walls of several structures.